Historic chapels to be sold as lack of funds stalls farm plan

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MAJOR plans to restore and reopen to the public a historic farmstead in ‘serious risk of collapse’ have been shelved by the National Trust for Jersey after the charity was forced to put up for sale two nearby chapels that were key to the project.

The two Methodist chapels in Les Chenolles, in St John, were to have been restored and turned into retail space, a restaurant and a studio to help support the opening of nearby Le Marinel Farm as a museum and visitor attraction for two or three days a week.

Le Marinel Farm has buildings, fittings and furnishings ranging from between the 15th and 19th centuries and is described by the trust as an ‘exceptional range of buildings of the utmost importance to the history, culture and architecture of Jersey’s rural heritage’.

It is one of only nine private buildings in the Island to be Grade-1 listed – of ‘exceptional public and heritage interest to Jersey and of more than Islandwide importance’ – under the Planning Department designation.

Problems financing the project have forced the trust to put the chapels on the market, and chief executive Charles Alluto said that the organisation was now reconsidering how best to protect the historic farm complex which is in what he described as ‘a dilapidated condition and at serious risk of collapse’.

‘It is a difficult decision to have to change the plan if you have a bigger vision for the site but our absolute priority is to safeguard the future of Le Marinel,’ Mr Alluto said.

‘In the UK the National Trust would seek endowment funds for such a project but we do not have the money for that so we must cut our cloth accordingly.’

The original medieval house and outbuildings at Le Marinel were abandoned in 1870, when a new residential property was constructed in front of the old ones. The original buildings have been largely untouched for 150 years.

In recent years, the trust has sought to safeguard the farm complex, engaging acclaimed conservation architect Ptolemy Dean – surveyor of the fabric of Westminster Abbey – to develop a vision for the restoration project. Some urgent repair works were carried out but efforts to secure financing for the project have received a series of setbacks.

The trust initially secured an interest-free loan from a local charitable trust to acquire the chapels, with the prospect of further support being considered.

However, it said that the offer of a long lease on the farm property and ‘the inevitable delays which underlie such heritage projects’ proved unattractive for the charitable trust, which ultimately withdrew its offer of further support.

A bid to the government’s Fiscal Stimulus Fund was turned down in 2021.

With the charitable trust asking for repayment of its loan and funds still required for the farm restoration, the trust has written to its members explaining the latest position.

‘The trust concluded that the future of the chapels should be viewed separately from the main project. We have been in tentative discussions with a number of organisations, including charities, parochial and government bodies, to try to find a mutually beneficial alternative use for the chapels. So far, no acceptable plans have been put forward and, mindful of the need to repay the loan, the trust has decided to put the chapels on the market,’ the letter said.

Two agents have been appointed to begin the sale by private informal tender, a process the trust said it expected would take a number of months to finalise.

‘We continue to develop proposals for the Le Marinel historic farm complex and have continued discussions with the owner and potential funding partners and prospective users, including government departments. We passionately believe that Le Marinel must be saved from further decay and will use all of our efforts to come up with a scheme which can achieve this,’ it added.

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